GUEST COLUMN: Crop insurance a farm business must

Mary Lou, Steve, Dan and Ben Durfee accept the 2018 Madison County Conservation Farm of the Year on behalf of their family, employees and community. (File photo)

By Steve Durfee

My family knows a little about how much farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

During the Dust Bowl, my grandparents Edson and Harriet Durfee fled the disaster in Nebraska and came back east to Chittenango to start again.

Back then, there was no farm safety net. When the Nebraska prairie turned against them, farmers like my grandparents lost it all and had to rebuild on their own.

Today, our family’s Tuscarora Dairy Farm is going strong. I farm with my wife and three sons. We grow corn and wheat and have about 1,000 milk cows.

Our farm is not on the outskirts of town. It’s right in the heart of Chittenango with about a thousand homes nearby.

It’s a great opportunity to continue to connect consumers with agriculture. Most people today don’t have a good understanding of where their food comes from. We run a small vegetable stand to serve the community. It doesn’t make much money, but we do it because it makes our neighbors happy and keeps them connected to farming.

When I think back to the challenges my grandparents faced as they packed up and left Nebraska, it reminds me just how much farming has changed. I think they’d be surprised and pleased at how successful our family farm has become.

We wouldn’t have been as successful without a strong farm safety net. The centerpiece of that safety net is the public-private partnership of crop insurance.

I recently invited representatives from the crop insurance industry to my farm to tell my story and show them how we use crop insurance to manage the weather and price risks that, for my grandparents, were nearly unmanageable.

The large investment required for each acre we plant makes crop insurance a must. Buying insurance helps take out some of the risk on those acres.

When it comes to milk, last year the price was so low that we feared if it continued it would put a lot of stress on our finances.

We bought a dairy revenue protection policy from our local crop growers agent to help mitigate the risk of the volatile dairy market. Fortunately, the price of milk rebounded, and we didn’t need to use the insurance.

Like all farmers, we would rather sell products at a good price than make an insurance claim.

Crop insurance is just like all the other insurance you have. We end up spending a lot of money on insurance, but you can sleep at night knowing if something happens, you are going to be protected partially and you will be able to rebound from it and continue on.

I’d like to thank Congress and the American public for backing a strong system of crop insurance in the Farm Bill. As the political cycle heats up and we head toward the 2020 elections, I hope policymakers will remember just how important crop insurance has become to rural America.

Steve Durfee operates Tuscarora Dairy Farm with his wife and three sons in Chittenango.

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